Fantasy football: then and now

The story of 1979 league here on the west side that still tracks stats with paper and pencil!

Fantasy football: then and now

The very first fantasy football league took place in Oakland in 1963.

I asked Tony Lanzillotta, the proud owner of Champions Bar and Grill, what inspired him to start his own league and his response was “I was reading an article in Football Digest about executives who played fantasy football in Oakland.”

That was all the inspiration he needed to start his own fantasy football league in 1979. He was just a few years removed from high school at the time and didn’t know the first thing about fantasy football. The only thing he had to go off of to start his own fantasy league was the article in Football Digest.

The league started out as a ten man league that extended to 12 only two years later. The scoring at the beginning was the following: six points for each touchdown and three points for each field goal. The scoring was all done by hand on Monday by Lanzillotta because he was both the league manager and had a degree in accounting. He saw who scored by using the USA Today paper and looking at the stats of the players from the weekend.

They only got points for touchdowns and field goals unlike in most leagues today where points are awarded for yards gained as well. They were allowed to have two quarter backs, three running backs, three wide receivers, one kicker, and one back up for each position. Defenses and special teams were added years later. There was a total of 13 original players which changed to 15 with the addition of defenses.

After the first draft each team kept the same players every year. They only time a team changed players was if a player retired or was dropped. In the opinion of the league doing this makes the league more realistic. They could only add or drop a player in the tenth week if the player they had was out for the rest of the season. There was no waiver wire. Even though they keep their players they still have a draft every year, but it is normally only about five rounds.

This was a league where the prize was a trophy instead of cash. When I asked how Mr. Lanzillotta acquired the trophy he said, “St. Dominic donated the trophy.” They still use the same trophy to this day. Even though there was no cash prize this league was taken very seriously.

The trophy even broke once and was taken to a real trophy maker to get fixed. After every year the winner’s name gets engraved into the trophy and the winner gets to keep the trophy at his house for a whole year.

Today the league is still done completely off line and the scoring is still done by hand by Mr. Lanzillotta. The league’s only remaining original members are Tony Lanzillotta, who is still the commissioner, and Dan Rudolph, father of Kyle Rudolph.

The league has now been running for so long that Lanzillotta’s son, Joe Lanzillotta, is in it. The same trophy is still used and there is a new name engraved on it after every season. Even though the members of the league have changed, the way it is run along with the time and effort put in to it by every member every year, never will.